Video Transcript: Spitzer Space Telescope: 10 Years of Innovation
We've been flying for about 10 years, that's about 30, 3,600 days. We have 5,000 published papers. That means every day, every single day, a new paper based on Spitzer data announcing new results and new discoveries is published, which to me is absolutely amazing.
Spitzer is an infrared telescope, which means it sees through the dust that's out in space. And by seeing through the dust, we get to pinpoint the stellar nurseries that are out there where stars are being born.
Shortly after launch, Spitzer began its rich history of surprising revelations within our solar system and beyond.
It discovered Saturn's largest ring, one seen only in infrared light.
It identified buckyballs in space, carbon cages that can trap other small molecules or atoms like tiny time capsules.
Working with Hubble, it helped pinpoint some of the most distant galaxies in the universe.
And Spitzer's ultra-high resolution map of the Milky Way substantially improved our understanding of our own galaxy's structure.
But perhaps the biggest surprise for the mission is that it turned out to be a powerful tool for studying exoplanets: planets that orbit other stars.
We've made the first observations of light from exoplanets. We've measured the temperature, the atmospheric composition, the atmospheric structure, the atmospheric circulation for literally dozens of exoplanets around all sorts of stars, including stars like the sun.
Spitzer made the first-ever temperature map of a hot exoplanet, hinting at its astoundingly windy environment.
By mid-2009, Spitzer ran out of onboard coolant. Surprisingly, this did not end the mission. It merely marked the transition to a new phase of operation and discovery.
After the coolant ran out we were still able to take great quality data with Spitzer due to its unique engineering design, which allowed it to stay cold enough so that one of the cameras could continue to operate.
Now 10 years into its mission, the Spitzer Space Telescope continues to fundamentally change how we view our own Solar System, our Galaxy, and the Universe beyond.